Actual People: More of the LEO interview

BY DAMIEN MCPHERSON
leo@leoweekly.com

Corey Profumo: I was in a group called the Unheard in the early 00s with one of our current DJs (MacaDamien) and another rapper, Pat D. We just kind of split apart slowly, gradually. Then I knocked a woman up and I had to get my fucking shit together. I stayed away from it for a little while but Damien, my old DJ, started cutting with Calcutta, our main producer. I started messing with some tracks they had recorded. James’ house was like a commune for musicians for a while. People would just come over and I knew something was going to happen with this. All these really good musicians … I knew I wanted to be a live band eventually. We didn’t know who was going to be a part of it. Some people fizzled out, others melded in. Damien was always there, but wasn’t really producing as much after a certain point. James took the wheel with that. Jake, me, and James did our first show as Actual People, then Richard came in a few months after.

Richard Herrell: They were playing a show at Phoenix Hill Tavern, and I was just in the audience and just thought, ‘This band is awesome.’ Within a few months, I was playing in the band.

CP: ’06-’07 was when we first started putting songs together, but a lot of that material has been thrown away, forgotten. That was our experimental period. We’ve been working on this particular album for 2 ½, 3 years. Earlier, we just didn’t know what we wanted to do with it. James originally just wanted production credit on a CJ Prof album, but because he cut records, I knew I needed a DJ, and then Jake is playing guitar on everything, so we’ve got to be a band. So the early stuff was us making songs because we were going to make songs regardless. I was going to make songs with anybody, tinkering around with my little keyboard …

RH: James listens to all kinds of stuff, but you can tell by the production, he listens to some super aggressive stuff, and that really gives Actual People its sound.

CP: James and Jake together, they really start the tracks. That’s how it’s worked for this particular collection of songs.

LEO: So they’ll build the bed and hand it to you to write to.

CP: Yeah, on some “Do you like this?” and usually I do. (laughs, joking) Then we form like Voltron…

RH: I worked at Music-Go-Round selling used gear and I’ve known James for, like, four years. He used to come in buying gear, asking my opinion on this and that. One day he invited me over, and was like ‘Wow, you’ve got a nice set up here,’ and started vibing.

LEO: You stay pretty active, Richard. You’ve got Hippiedigger, you’ve got the EP with Polio, Murk-A-Troid with Crash, Actual People.

RH: I’m always making something, but my focus is Actual People. Now, that doesn’t mean that when I go home I’m not scratching out bass lines on my own, or making tracks. It’s what I do. But it’s nice to be able to play a role, let these guys make the tracks.

CP: One of the tracks on the album, Damien produced. He’s really good with sound, period. He’s super good. He just kind of stopped messing with it.

LEO: How would you describe your music?

CP: (pauses, laughs) Rawww. Uncut. I don’t know. (turns to Richard)

RH:  I don’t want to say “conscious” because that comes off too preachy…

CP: That’s one thing: I don’t want to come off as is preachy, but I’m definitely, highly opinionated about society, about the hip-hop community. It’s like, I don’t want to come off as preachy, but I do have that attitude — put me on my soap box and let me talk for awhile. I’ve got some things to say. In the end, I hope it benefits people; I hope some people get positive things out of it. It comes off more angry.

RH: He’s got a little bit of Zach de la Rocha in him.

CH: I heard Brother Ali say something in a song one time. He said something about sometimes you’ve got to hit ‘em hard in the face to get people to pay attention. That’s kind of how I felt my first release of any kind should be. It should be, ‘I’m here and this is what I do.’ From a lyrical standpoint, it’s like that. And everything came from their music, and it’s just coincidental that they were making music that fit my attitude toward a lot of things. They feel the same way about a lot of things. Not just music, we’re really good friends too. I’ve been friends with Damien since the Unheard, in the early ’00s. We’ve lived together; we’ve worked together.

LEO: Is this your ‘sink or swim’ moment, musically?

CP: Not really. It’s just a rebuilding. I’ve always found a way to get work and make money. I had $10,000 worth of debt and was jobless when I knocked a girl up and came back from that, and was about to buy a house last year when I got laid off, so I’ll get back. I don’t feel that way about it. I feel like this is just the start, as far as Actual People goes.

LEO: Where do you want to take this?

RH: Touring, playing in front of people, maybe being able to send money back home to our girlfriends. I think we’re all too old to be playing in a band for nothing.

CP:  There has to be some compensation, but it also has to grow organically. Not by way of some bullshit, like signing some weird record deal. We’ll always make music no matter what the compensation is, but will we take it this far and put in this much effort later? I don’t know. It’s all based on how people react to the music we make. We’ve already got other projects in the works, songs set aside for other projects. So we’re prepared to release more music. I want to go wherever the people want us to go. We’ll give it to them.

I have a five year old son, and he needs me around in his life. I mean, people go out of town on business, sometimes for weeks at a time. But months? Half a year? I don’t think I could do that. Compromises can happen. I’ll always try to go after it, as much as I can, anyway.

LEO: How did you connect with Grimey Rhyme Regime?

CP: The hip-hop scene I was involved with was pretty much the same people. Some dropped in and out. Nacirema was around when I was first going out to shows, and E-Dash, Manifesto. I’ve known Polio since the beginning. He was in a group called Triple Crown. Then when Nacirema hooked up with Gonzo, and they were like, hey we’ve got this whole thing going on, why don’t you join? We started linking together for shows then.

LEO: Who would you consider your biggest influences?

CP: It ranges to different styles of music. As far as rap, LL Cool J. I wore out my copy of Mama Said Knock You Out out. I used to play sports as a kid, and I used to fake being hurt just so I could sit on the sidelines and listen to that song on my Walkman. As I’ve gotten older, Slug and Aesop Rock have gotten to be huge influences. I’ve always loved the Chili Peppers, even soul stuff. My dad was a huge Temptations fan. My dad is my biggest musical influence, because he introduced me to so much stuff. From Stevie Wonder to Rage Against the Machine.

RH: I grew up in the ’80s, so I was all about the early Def Jam stuff, looking at Rick Rubin with the Beastie Boys. I’m also a fan of Tool and Rage, but also Curtis Mayfield and Sly & the Family Stone. Producer-wise, Nine Inch Nails; that album he did with Saul Williams.

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